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1 Year of the Curriculum RECLAIMING OUR CURRICULUM Custom design your curriculum for your learners Free CPD modules to download at

2 What is the Year of the Curriculum? The Year of the Curriculum is a professional development project. It has been created to enable teachers to plan and design a bespoke whole school curriculum. This guide introduces you to a series of units, called the Year of the Curriculum programme, which are designed to work for individual teachers and to support whole school development. If you work through the programme, you will start by setting the aims for the curriculum in your school. You will explore how to knit together all the various elements of the curriculum. You will consider how to measure what is important and not just what is easier to assess. You will also ensure that your school s policies, routines and engagement with its community support your exciting curriculum. Whenever you pick up this guide, whatever year, I am confident that teachers in England and Wales will find it valuable. I hope the units empower you. Teachers are time-poor and teaching is target heavy, so this programme has been designed to allow you to dip in flexibly, or to work through all eight units for deeper professional development and reflection. You can locate the units described in this guide at: Christine Blower General Secretary 2

3 The Curriculum Foundation The Curriculum Foundation is a not-for-profit social enterprise organisation, established to pursue our vision of a world class curriculum for every teacher, everywhere. Our focus is curriculum development and design and we work with educators at every level from individual teachers and schools through to national governments. The NUT recognises that successful curriculum change depends upon colleagues having access to appropriate professional development. They have shouldered the responsibility for making this freely available to teachers through the Year of the Curriculum programme. As a profession, we must claim back our responsibility for the curriculum. It is not sufficient to be the deliverers of someone else s programmes. It is not good for us as teachers and certainly not good for learners. The Foundation is proud to partner with the NUT in this extraordinary collaboration. Together we have the potential to have an impact on learning and the life experiences of so many young people. Dave Peck The Curriculum Foundation 3

4 Designing the curriculum make learning irresistible The most effective curriculum for learners in your school is one that is custom-designed for them. No-one is better placed to design this curriculum than you! We need to remember that it is memorable learning experiences created by enthusiastic, talented teachers that brings learning to life. Most of us have at least one memory of irresistible learning from our own time as students. Sometimes those experiences are life-changing, perhaps leading to a career choice or a lifelong love of literature, art, sport, languages or nature. What is your most memorable learning experience? What was it about the experience that made the learning irresistible? How could we design experiences to include the elements that make learning irresistible? See the next page for your eight part guide to help you develop curriculum design and development skills. These eight units take you on a journey from creating clear design principles and measuring what we value, through to designing a curriculum for deep learning and, finally, to practical strategies for effective implementation. 4

5 The Year of the Curriculum units Modules Module 1 What are we trying to achieve? Module 2 How shall we organise learning? Module 3 How shall we evaluate success? Units (posted on NUT website) Laying the foundations for a curriculum that excites imaginations, inspires all learners and ensures high standards Creating clear, world class design principles developed with stakeholders Designing for deep learning that balances curriculum elements and makes learning irresistible Meeting national requirements in a local setting that is personal to teachers Measuring what we value: knowledge, skills, understanding and personal development Evaluating the impact of curriculum change Unit number Unit 1 Unit 2 Unit 3 Unit 4 Unit 5 Unit 6 Module 4 How do we make it happen? Building for success: a strategic approach to change and innovation Involving the whole community in curriculum design and implementation Unit 7 Unit 8 All eight units available free at 5

6 What do we mean by the curriculum? Teachers will give different answers if asked to define the curriculum. Some of the possible answers that generally emerge can be grouped into the categories below. Subject knowledge Subject plus All planned experiences All-inclusive UNESCO s International Bureau of Education considers these three inter-related dimensions of the curriculum: 1. The intended or official curriculum as defined in guidelines, frameworks and guides that specify what students are expected to learn and should be able to do. 2. The implemented curriculum that is actually taught in the classroom, including how it is delivered and who teaches it. 3. The attained curriculum that represents what students have actually learned. UNESCO points out that the challenge is ensuring coherence and congruence between curriculum policy documents, the actual pedagogical process and learning outcomes. Throughout the Year of the Curriculum units, the word curriculum is used in its broadest sense. The school curriculum is everything that happens in school plus everything that takes place through school. The national curriculum is a part of the school curruculum. Does this definition feel right for your school? 6

7 What do we mean by curriculum design? Units 1 and 2 enable you to consider the definition on page 6 and to develop the confidence to pull all the seemingly disparate elements together to make one curriculum. Unit 2 explores the distinction between curriculum planning and curriculum design. Curriculum planning Planning can often mean simply making a list of all the things that pupils should learn and making sure they are all in the right order. Curriculum design Design is about constructing the learning experiences that young people will need in order to learn these things. It is about ensuring that those experiences are effective and compelling in themselves and that the sum total of the experiences adds up to a coherent and worthwhile programme that meets the end that we seek. Design is much more interesting than planning! A national curriculum is just one element of the education of every child and schools are free to choose how they organise the school day. Schools can use these modules to gain confidence in how to design a flexible school curriculum. This curriculum will cover statutory requirements but will also inspire and ensure that skills and competencies continue to be developed alongside knowledge and understanding. 7

8 Building blocks Units 3, 4 and 5 introduce some of the building blocks of the curriculum. Knowledge Possession of information Skills Understanding Ability to perform mental or physical operation Development of a concept: putting knowledge in a framework of meaning These are the building blocks often considered but there are others Values Sets of core beliefs and understanding on which actions are based Attitudes Personal Development Behavioural tendencies based on evaluations Individual, social and emotional skills and well-being Competencies, explored in Unit 6, are the combination of knowledge, skills and attitudes that are acquired through the application of knowledge in meaningful situations. They help deepen learning and turn knowledge into understanding. Competencies require the development of the right attitudes to apply the knowledge. Knowledge + Skill + Attitude = Competence If values, attitudes, skills and competencies are to be routinely taught in the same way as subject knowledge, they must be securely transmitted through long and medium-term plans into learning objectives and outcomes at lesson level. 8

9 Implementation: it s all down to the learning experiences Teaching Strategies Classroom management, pedagogy, teaching and learning resources Content Aims and objectives, content, skills and competencies, values and attitudes Assessment Formative and summative Students Learning Experiences Source: Ministry of Education, Singapore 9

10 Curriculum aims and values What is the curriculum actually for? Underpinning the Year of the Curriculum modules is the belief that schools need aims and values for their school curriculum. Unit 1 explores curriculum aims, and subsequent units build on those aims. If a school is to be more than a group of individuals coming together under one roof, it needs: a unifying set of values which everyone shares and recognises as important; and agreed aims so that everyone s energy is channelled towards achieving the same ends. The curriculum should reflect these aims and values so that all learning experiences contribute to a coherent, consistent effective team pursuit of the best possible outcomes. Equipped for Life what are the curriculum aims in your school? A valuable approach to establishing clear, aspirational curriculum aims and values is to explore what you would provide if you could equip all learners with everything they need to succeed in life. With sufficient time and thought, the outcome of this process is a description of the ideal product of education, a confident young person, fully equipped for life. In Unit 1, you will find a stick figure worksheet. Use this with colleagues, parents or learners ask what your learners will need to be equipped for life. Draw the answers on the stick figure. 10

11 Equipped for life? makes connections thirst for knowledge confident questioning takes risks independent listens and reflects willing to have a go makes a difference persevering critical self-editing communicates well respectful skilled creative curious self-esteem can do attitude gets on well with others literate generates ideas shows initiative thinks for themselves flexible compassionate acts with integrity learns from mistakes There is no right answer but your description will undoubtedly include some of the above. 11

12 Setting your curriculum aims and values What do we mean by equipped for life? It does not matter how you ask, or who you ask, everyone wants the same for their children. Educators and parents the world over tend to generate the same aspirations when using the exercise described on pages 10 and 11. Unit 1 explains the ways in which the stick figure exercise can allow your school to set or develop its curricular values and aims. To what extent does your current curriculum deliver? Consider what you and your colleagues/parents/governors have written on your stick figure/list. Does your curriculum: Instil the values on your list? Develop the attitudes on your list? Teach the skills on your list? Prepare young people for the 21st century? If we express curriculum aims simply in terms of knowledge, do you think we can prepare our learners properly for life in the modern world? 12

13 Curriculum design a job for teachers Who should design the curriculum? Do teachers solely implement or deliver the curriculum, or should they design it as well? This guide is for teachers, for it is teachers who are best placed to fit and adapt national requirements to a local setting and incorporate a national curriculum into a school curriculum that is right for students. In Unit 5, different philosophical approaches to the curriculum are analysed. Debates about teacher professionalism are not new. See this analysis by Jean Rudduck of the centrality of teachers in Lawrence Stenhouse s approach, written in 1975: He saw a curriculum development project not as a convenient means of regimenting teachers in a different set of routines, but as a way of extending their individual and communal powers. A curriculum project was not a solution worked out by others and offered to teachers, who had merely to apply it; it was a diagnostic and experimental tool, designed to help teachers examine some of the fundamental problems of schooling. In its framework and materials, a curriculum project gave support for trying out and evaluating new approaches in a spirit of inquiry. Teachers, not curriculum packages, are the agents of change, and the function of curriculum projects is to service the professional learning of teachers by offering specifications teachers can evaluate by testing them in their own classrooms. 13

14 Curriculum aims are changing around the world When developing curriculum aims, many schools around the world have national aims set by governments to take into account. The pre-2014 English National Curriculum aims were a source of inspiration for other jurisdictions around the world. There is nothing to prevent you from utilising, adapting or applying the pre-2014 aims which were designed to enable all young people to become: successful learners who enjoy learning, make progress and achieve; confident individuals who are able to live safe, healthy and fulfilling lives; responsible citizens who make a positive contribution to society. Engaging stakeholders in developing shared aims is valuable in building understanding of and commitment to the curriculum. Finland, Japan, Shanghai and Singapore realise that high wages in the current global economy require not just superior knowledge of the subjects studied in school, but also a set of social skills, personal habits and dispositions and values that are essential to success. Mark S Tucker (2011) Standing on the Shoulders of Giants 14

15 International perspectives This table sets out the national curriculum aims of five different areas. Where? Australia has committed to Alberta, Canada New Zealand Curriculum aims supporting all young Australians to become successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens students develop an interrelated set of attitudes, skills and knowledge that can be drawn upon and applied for successful learning, work and living Confident, connected, actively involved lifelong learners Hong Kong essential lifelong learning experiences for whole-person development in the domains of ethics, intellect, physical development, social skills and aesthetics all students can become active, responsible and contributing members of society, the nation and the world Singapore holistically nurturing students to become well-rounded persons morally, intellectually, physically, socially and aesthetically 15

16 Pedagogy, curriculum and assessment You will be aware of how forms of assessment, the pressures resulting from accountability measures or teaching methods can distort the curriculum. Aspirations for the curriculum that you wish to pursue can be undermined by demands for particular teaching methods or by assessment forms, as much as by the national curriculum documents. This is why setting curriculum aims and values is so vital to agree aims for your school which enable teachers to collaborate together to shape a curriculum vision and stay on track. Curriculum design checklist 1. At the end of this learning experience, what will the students have learned? 2. Is it really necessary to learn this at all? Is it something we need to do? 3. If the students learn this, what level will they attain in terms of the subject? 4. What skills and competencies will students be developing? 5. Will the planned learning experiences actually bring about this intended learning? 6. Where should it take place classroom, school grounds, wider locality? 7. Who should be involved teachers, parents, others? 8. Could we make it even more interesting? 16

17 Examining current practice in your school 17

18 Measuring what we value Unit 5 explains the importance of being confident in the value of teacher assessment over tests. We must remember how effective teacher use of formative assessment can be. It is also important to consider all those aspects of development that we really value. Unit 6 explores assessment and evaluation. Some of the issues explored in the unit include: What is the difference between assessment and evaluation? What is the difference between assessment and testing? Do we always measure something when we assess it? What is the difference between validity and reliability? How many different types of assessment are there? Whatever approach taken by a school, it is important to assess what we value and not what is easy to assess. Assessment Finding out what or how much a person has learned. Evaluation Finding out how effective a system is at delivering its goals. 18

19 Learning from each other The units contain links to case studies from Professor Mick Waters, who introduces a number of schools and situations and gives an insightful commentary on each. In each case, there is an example of what can be achieved through teachers taking control of the curriculum and having the confidence to design learning experiences that fit their pupils. This is the personalisation of learning. Find them at The focus of the Year of the Curriculum programme is, of course, curriculum development and design rather than pedagogy. However, curriculum implementation cannot be separated from the learning experiences that will make it happen. Unit 6 provides pointers to some thought-provoking sources relating to irresistible learning, including: High Tech High Schools (San Diego) on a project-based approach to learning; John Hattie s illuminating meta-analysis regarding what really works in the classroom; and Scotland s Curriculum for Excellence: approaches to learning section and its useful links. We invite you to send examples of how you have used the Year of the Curriculum Programme to We hope that you find this guide and professional development insightful and that you are empowered to reclaim your curriculum. 19

20 CURRICULUM LEARNING TREE Theatre Cinema world Monitors Typing Skills I C T Targets Roald Dahl History of choco late Successful Learner Glass Materials Metal Clay Forces Plastic Textiles Research Skills Functional Skills Resilient Confident Curious 20

21 Physical Education Eco Committee Librarians Reading Buddies School Councillors Learning Partners Responsible Citizen Confident Individual Thinking Skills Social Skills Learning Skills Compassionate Enterprising Principled 21

22 Join Us If you are not a member of a union please join the NUT, the largest and most effective teachers union. Join now at or call or Recruit a friend to the NUT If you know a colleague who is not already in a union ask them to join the NUT at Details of our current offers, including 1 membership for NQTs, can be found at No NUT rep? Please elect one If there is currently no rep in your school or college, please get together with your colleagues to elect one. Once a rep has been elected please notify your division/association secretary, whose details can be found on your membership credential or at To get involved in the NUT go to 22

23 Acknowledgements The Year of the Curriculum units are written by the Curriculum Foundation and the NUT is grateful for kind permission to reproduce some of the content in this guide. With thanks to Dave Peck, Peter Hall-Jones, Brian Male, Alison Willmott and Gareth Mills from the Curriculum Foundation.

24 follow us on twitter.com/nutonline Designed and published by The Strategy and Communications Department of The National Union of Teachers Origination by Paragraphics Printed by Ruskin Press Cover photos Jason Lock 9625/08/14

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